About a year ago, my wife and I filed for divorce.

I haven’t shared this publicly. I’ve tried to remain strong. But, truth be told, it’s been the most painful experience of my life.

For the first three months, my days were anxious and my nights were sleepless. I stared for hours into the plaster of my ceiling worried that I’d ruined my life — and, more importantly, my kids’ lives. My kids are the most important thing in the world to me — how could I leave them? Why had I severed our lives? I had visions of baseball practices where I wasn’t present, dance recitals where my kids looked from the stage to empty seats.

Making matters worse was the fact that I’m a child of divorce. In fact, each of my parents married and divorced multiple times throughout my childhood. My entire adult life, the mere thought of ever getting divorced filled me with fear. Turning that thought into a part of my reality, then, was like whacking a hornet’s nest inside my heart.

Since then, I’ve made it to the other side. My wife, my kids, me — we’re all happy now, and we’re still very much a family. But getting to this point was challenging. And along the way, I learned a lot about what it means to face and deal with the obstacles life throws at you — even the most personally horrifying ones.

Even successful people have to deal with shit.

I fancy myself someone who has his life together. I work tirelessly on my self-improvement, invest often in my personal growth. I employ people, and I’m tough. All my life, when those around me have had problems or were in need of help, I’ve been there with either a solution or an outstretched hand.

My divorce, however, destroyed all of that self-confidence.

For a time, I felt worthless. I felt terrified, even like I was going to die. In time, after enough nights staring up into that white plaster, a familiar desire bloomed inside me. I wanted to go running back. I thought that, rather than leave my kids, rather than become my parents, I should instead try and save my unhappy marriage with my ex-wife — try and make things go back to the way they were. The pain was so bad, the fear so real, that I wanted to put that cork back on the bottle.

But a part of me knew I couldn’t do that.

In need of help — in an attempt to regain a clear mind — I reached out to friends like Tony Robbins, Daniel Amen. They were great, but not because they gave me some kind of secret formula for managing divorce and handling personal anxiety. They were great because they showed me that life isn’t perfect, and that “successful” people are in no way immune to the pitfalls of being human.

These pitfalls include the guilt that grips you like motion sickness when you fear you’ve made a horrible mistake, the fear of feeling like you’ve become the thing you always hated.

Sometimes, you have to face your biggest fear.

What Tony stressed to me was the importance of facing that fear, that guilt — of not just acknowledging it, but confronting it head on.

This starts with admitting what mistakes you’ve made, apologizing to those you’ve hurt, and then setting your sights on making things right again and on ensuring you never make the mistake in question twice.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what I would have been doing had I given in to those more base instincts and tried sticking it out with my wife, prolonging that unhappy marriage.

This would have been a horrible mistake because it would have amounted to the opposite of facing my fears. See, my family and I are on the other side of the pain and the fear now. My ex has purchased a new house. Our kids are happy and at peace with our new reality. We’re a happy family. But we didn’t reach this point easily or overnight.

To get here, we all had to face our fears. We had to look inward for strength, and turn to others for help. And we had to work at it continuously. That’s what growth requires.

Your next life — the one you believe is possible for you, the one without the guilt and anger and frustration you feel now — lies on the other side of a lot of hard work. It lies on the other side of fear and pain. And to get to it, you’ll have to feel and face that fear and that pain. Like crossing hot coals to get to water.

Once it’s all said and done, the important thing is you learn from your mistakes.

This is one last thing I learned from my divorce, and the following challenge of rebuilding myself and my life: Facing your fears and getting to the other side of your pain only means something if you learn from the mistakes which caused the trouble in the first place.

We have to admit our faults and identify where and how exactly we screwed up along the way. Why? Because that’s the only way we’ll truly learn from the experience. That’s how we make the experience valuable, a much stronger brick in the more resilient foundation of our new lives.

In other words, that’s how you prevent yourself from making the same mistake again, which is the last thing you want to do.

My family and I have reached a new, healthier place in our lives because we did these things. We all sought help in each other and in our support circles. We faced our fears head on, felt the pain, and conquered it. Then we sought to learn from the experience so we could better guarantee we’d emerge from it as better people.

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Originally published at psiloveyou.xyz